If you’ve looked at surname origin sites, you’ve probably read that Tickle / Tickell is a locational name, and comes from Tickhill, in Lancashire, England. I believe this is only part of the story. Very few surnames have a single origin and, in the case of Tickle, there is little evidence to suggest a preponderance of the name in Yorkshire, as one would expect if this were where it originated. I think it’s more accurate to say the name has multiple origins or possible origins, of which Tickhill is just one.
Tickhill appeared as “Tichehilla” in the Yorkshire Register of Antiquities (c. 1150), and as “Ticahil” in the Yorkshire Charters (1157). The place name itself is composed of the Olde English personal name “Tica”, or the Olde English “ticce”, kid, plus “hyll”, hill, so it means either “hill where young goats are kept” or “hill of a man called Tica”.
It could well be that there were other villages with a similar name elsewhere in England, such as Devon and Cornwall, where the name is also found in early records.
After the Norman conquest of England in 1066, William 1 (known as ‘William the Conqueror’) gave the lands around Tickhill to a Norman baron, Roger deBusli, who participated in the conquest. He erected a castle at Tickhill and a town grew around it. Tickhill is mentioned in the 12th century Domesday Book as Tikehill. It was initially a successful new town and, in 1295, Tickhill sent two members of Parliament to Westminster.
During the Middle Ages it became more common for people to migrate from their home area seeking work. They often took their former village name as a means of identification, thus resulting in a wider dispersal of the name.
However, if your ancestors emigrated to North America, or elsewhere, it’s quite possible that they have no connection with England whatsoever. The name can also be derived from a Dutch or German name, such as Tichel or Digel. It was common for immigrants’ names to be changed, either by themselves to ‘Anglicise’ the surname, or by immigration officials who mis-transcribed the name.
The name Tickle is particularly common in Lancashire and there are tales that the Tickles there descended from a German gardener who was brought in to work on the estate of Lord Derby. I have found no evidence to corroborate this story so far.